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Spartacist Canada No. 175

Winter 2012/2013

The Communist Party of Canada and the Quebec National Question

Part Two: From the Great Depression to the Cold War

We print below the concluding part of an edited presentation by comrade Charles Galarneau at the Twelfth National Conference of the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste, held in the summer of 2011. Part One, which appeared in SC No. 174 (Fall 2012), covered the early history of the socialist movement in Quebec and the stance toward the Quebec national question of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) from its origins through the 1920s.

For revolutionaries in binational or multinational states, the experiences and work of the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky provide a peerless example of a revolutionary approach to the national question. The Bolsheviks steadfastly championed all struggles against national oppression and Great Russian chauvinism in the tsarist empire, which Lenin termed a “prison house of peoples.” Lenin combatted nationalism as a bourgeois ideology while fighting for the rights of oppressed peoples with the methods of proletarian class struggle, a stance that was crucial to the Bolshevik victory in the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The opportunity for the early Canadian Communists to draw the lessons of the Bolshevik approach to the national question and apply them to Quebec was foreclosed by the rise of Stalinism, which wrecked the CPC as it did Communist parties around the world. The Trotskyist movement, whose founding leaders in the U.S. and Canada were expelled from the Communist parties starting in 1928, carried forward the fight for authentic revolutionary Marxism.

At the end of Part One, comrade Galarneau noted that while the CPC increased its organizing work in Quebec starting in 1929, its “theoretical political views of the Quebec national question actually got worse over the next few years. The party went from its previous agnosticism to openly denying the right to self-determination and, at least for the next dozen years or so, the very existence of a Quebec nation.”

The CPC’s Montreal youth leader Fred Rose played a leading role in the debates on Quebec. At the CPC’s Sixth Convention in 1929, he won the fight for the party to pay more attention to Quebec. However, in a January 1931 Young Worker article Rose then complained that “the discussion developed into a polemic as to whether or not the French Canadians are an oppressed minority,” instead of finding ways to “lay down a concrete line for work.” From this implicitly chauvinist irritation, he would go on to lay out a more explicit line a few months after the Seventh Convention in 1934:

“There being no French Canadian economy, but rather a Canadian economy it is obvious that there is no such thing as a French Canadian nation apart from Canadians as a nation but rather a Canadian nation of which the French Canadians (they are the biggest single racial group in Canada) are the basic group….

“The French Canadian bourgeoisie got its share either separately or jointly with the English Canadians. As for the ‘rights’ that the masses can enjoy under capitalism, the French Canadians have lingual and other so-called ‘democratic’ rights to the same extent as the English Canadians. The Canadian working class can use both the French and the English language in the fight against the bourgeoisie.”

Worker, 19 January 1935, quoted in Bernard Gauvin, Les Communistes et la Question Nationale au Québec (1981)

Among other things, this schema conveniently skipped over the “so-called” democratic right of self-determination, i.e., the right to separate, which the Québécois did not and still do not possess under Canadian rule.

The party did recognize the particular superexploitation of the Québécois workers, but this was simply put down to an “economic” discrepancy (or remnants of Quebec’s supposed “feudal” past) which should be addressed by reforms from the federal government. CPC leader Stewart Smith spelled this out in a 1938 Daily Clarion article:

“Today the struggle for economic improvements for the Canadian people involves the most vigorous struggle against the terrible exploitation of the French-Canadian people of Quebec….

“The significance of any national social legislation, equally applicable in all parts of Canada is that it would tend to break through the double yoke of exploitation of the French-Canadians. It would mean a change in the relationships between the French-Canadian people and the rest of Canada, who have led the fight for unemployment insurance, the hope of economic improvement for themselves.”

—quoted in Gauvin

This kind of condescending federal-reformism would soon cause enormous damage for the party in Quebec.

True, in later years the CPC would evolve a less openly chauvinist line. In 1943, it started speaking of “national” equality for French Canada and formally endorsed the right to self-determination in 1952. But this was never anything more than a hypocritical nod to Leninism, as the party has to this day remained a deeply Canadian nationalist outfit. Indeed, party leader and Stalinist hardliner Tim Buck revived the “Canadian independence” slogan in the late 1940s, which as I noted earlier was a blatant capitulation to Canadian nationalism (see Part One).

Stanley Ryerson and the Quebec National Question

Hypocritical, yes—except, I think, for one leading member of the Communist Party. Here I need to break our narrative and speak about another fascinating and quite contradictory character in this story.

Born in 1911 into a wealthy and iconic Toronto bourgeois family, and with maternal lineages going back to a French military commander who had arrived in New France in the 17th century, young Stanley Bréhaut Ryerson was sent to study at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1931. From there he travelled through Italy and Spain, experiencing first hand some deep-going class struggle, including the beginnings of what would become the Spanish Civil War. He got involved with the French Communist Party in Paris, where in 1932 he took part in the 200,000-strong funeral procession for Zéphyrin Camélinat, the last surviving member of the Paris Commune of 1871.

On Ryerson’s return to Toronto, Tim Buck rapidly worked to advance this young intellectual. The party direly lacked good writers at the time and Buck saw Ryerson, a fluent French speaker, as a natural fit to represent the leadership in the CPC’s Montreal branches.

Stanley Ryerson was a contradictory political figure whose stature as an intellectual seems to have given him a degree of independence that had become extinct for most everyone else in “Tim Buck’s Party.” Yet he was also a central leader of a party that stood out for its servility to the dictates of the Kremlin Stalinists. A Central Committee member from 1935 to 1969, he was unswerving in his loyalty to Tim Buck.

Throughout this period and after, Ryerson’s primary theoretical pursuit was the understanding of Canadian history—most centrally, the Quebec national question—and some of his historical works are of lasting value to the working class. His views on Quebec contributed to his eventual exit from the CPC in 1971, unfortunately into the arms of the bourgeois-nationalist Parti Québécois (he died in 1998). But prior to this, he published in 1968 a significant work of history entitled Unequal Union: Confederation and the Roots of Conflict in the Canadas, 1815-1873. I read it recently in the French translation and I have to say that any communist doing work in this country now or in the future ought to read this book.

Back in 1937 Ryerson published the pamphlet Le Réveil du Canada Français (The Awakening of French Canada) and an article in the CPC’s French-language Clarté, “La Rébellion de 1837, Bataille Pour la Démocratie!” (Rebellion of 1837, A Battle for Democracy!), under the party name E. Roger. These were polemics against reactionary French Canadian nationalism. While perfectly in line with the CPC’s chauvinist line on the national question, Ryerson’s pieces added a new dimension of looking back to the “tradition” of 1837, as a way of mobilizing French Canadians in the “anti-fascist” struggle for “democracy.”

Unlike in 1837, when one could envision a progressive bourgeois struggle against the British aristocrats and overlords, in the 1930s this was an expression of the crudest Stalinist class collaboration. Indeed by this time, the struggle for “democracy” which Ryerson invoked was simply the ideological justification for the betrayals of the popular front. In Europe, the Stalinized Communist International sought to ingratiate itself with the bourgeoisies of the democratic imperialist powers through the containment of revolutionary proletarian movements. In practice, this meant class-collaborationist alliances with and participation in the governments of the bourgeoisie under the cover of “fighting fascism.” The popular front in Spain was the guarantor of the bourgeois order, ensuring the betrayal and defeat of the Spanish Revolution. In Canada, it meant pandering to Canadian nationalism and imperialism, as we shall see.

Stanley Ryerson would spend the rest of his life adjusting the politics of these first 1937 essays. This eventually led to the aforementioned Unequal Union. But as early as 1943, he published French Canada, A Study in Canadian Democracy. In this work, largely devoted to grotesque justifications for Canadian imperialism, Ryerson nonetheless wrote in direct contraposition to the CPC’s line:

“It is important to understand the fact that the democratic struggle of the French-Canadian people during the whole of the preceding period [before Confederation] had been a struggle for the right of national self-determination, for their right as a nation to choose their own form of state….

“The French-Canadian attitude towards the Confederation proposals was dominated by a profound concern lest the right to their own state be denied them by the English-Canadian majority.”

During heated debates at a 1945 National Committee meeting of the party, Ryerson went so far as to denounce “great nation chauvinism” in the central party leadership. He evidently got away with that, as he did with a 1946 article in which he argued outright in favour of the call for the right of self-determination for Quebec. As I mentioned, the party would eventually adopt that line in 1952.

But it was already too late. In 1947, the party’s line on the Quebec national question was still openly chauvinist, and so was the treatment of its Quebec leaders. Tim Buck’s bureaucratic machinery would literally cut off a whole arm and throw away an entire generation of Québécois would-be communists, rather than admit any doubt about his infallibility. So let’s look at that story, and at a couple of other powerful characters.

The Communist Party in Quebec

But first, let’s go play some softball! Young Henri Gagnon had obtained his electrician’s ticket in the early 1930s, but like tens of thousands of others in Montreal during the Great Depression he couldn’t find any work. By the mid-thirties, only 23 years old, he had a wife and six children and was collecting about $15 a week in social assistance. He paid rent in kind by doing electrical work for his landlord. He had a lot of time on his hands, and with a bunch of other unemployed workers put together a softball club in Lafontaine Park. The club soon turned into a small league, where Gagnon was a key organizer.

Henri Gagnon had heard of socialism, including from an eccentric freight train jumper when he was an apprentice. Some left-wing activists would come to the ball game and try to recruit some of the guys. They weren’t very successful, but eventually Gagnon got curious and started attending workers and unemployed meetings animated by the CPC.

At one of these meetings, just before the 1936 provincial elections, Gagnon argued for supporting the Union Nationale (UN) of Maurice Duplessis because of its “anti-trust” positions. Napoléon Brizard, a streetcar driver and trade unionist—and, Gagnon would later find out, a local leader of the Communist Party—countered him by explaining that Duplessis’ UN was in fact a representative of big capital. Later, Gagnon attended meetings of the CPC-affiliated “Front Populaire,” an unemployed workers support group, where he heard very convincing arguments in defense of the working class and against capitalism. This was where Henri Gagnon bought his first issues of the CPC’s Clarté, and he soon began to avidly read the works of Karl Marx.

He had to fight his way into becoming a Communist Party member, as the party was under severe repression and had to function clandestinely. But Gagnon was a stubborn fellow, and eventually he was accepted. His first CPC cell meeting in 1936 was made up of employed and unemployed francophone workers, including two members of a printers union. He soon got to meet comrades from other cells and sections, including longshoremen and streetcar operators, workers from McDonald Tobacco, from CP Rail’s Angus Shops, from Dominion Glass, from fur and leather factories, construction, the food industry and the City of Montreal (CUPE’s still often militant Montreal blue-collar Local 301 was founded by Communists).

All the francophone branches included many women involved in trade-union and party work, as well as the CPC-led La Voix des Femmes du Québec (Voice of Quebec Women). In 1938, the CPC launched French-speaking branches of the Young Communist League (YCL), which were soon teeming with dozens of young working-class men and women who organized meetings and other political activities, as well as popular monthly dances.

Gagnon also got to know some of the anglophone and Jewish members of the YCL in Montreal, whom he described as unfailingly supportive and helpful to the francophone group. Many of the English speakers were themselves leaders of working-class struggle, especially in the textile industry. In 1946, party supporters Kent Rowley and his companion Madeleine Parent led the bitterly fought Dominion Textile strike in St-Henri and Valleyfield, which ended in the victorious unionization of its 6,000 workers. A year later, Duplessis had both of them charged with “seditious conspiracy” because of their union activities.

In his 1985 memoir, looking back to the CPC’s trade-union work of his youth, Henri Gagnon observed:

“The socialist activists of Quebec played a vanguard role in building the union movement. During the Great Depression, nascent trade unionism depended on the voluntary work and sacrifice of the most dedicated workers. This was the heroic period when trade unionism was not the institution that it has become in our times. It was also a time when unionized workers constituted a small minority of a Québécois working class in formation. It was a time of hard battles for union recognition, which was always opposed by the bosses. In the union movement of those days, one was more likely to get a bad licking than a medal.”

Les Militants Socialistes du Québec, d’une Epoque à l’Autre (1985) (our translation)

From Bogus “Anti-Imperialism” to “Total War”

As I mentioned earlier, the repression against the CPC was severe. During this entire period in the 1930s and beyond, even before Duplessis passed his Padlock Law in 1937, between federal and provincial legislation the Communist Party in Quebec was actually somewhat legal for only about one year. But Gagnon also notes in his memoirs that the CPC was virtually the only well-organized left group in Quebec. The CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, forerunner of the NDP) had nothing going there, and the rest of the Montreal left was mostly made up of anarchists and anti-clericalist talkers who didn’t do much. Repression made it practically impossible for the CPC to do work outside the Montreal area, but otherwise they had a politically open field.

Repression was definitely a deterrent to membership. Gagnon spoke of how scared he was when he went to his first cell meeting and on his first assignment, passing leaflets door-to-door, thinking he would be picked up by the cops at any minute. But—somewhat unsurprisingly—the biggest obstacle reported by many young recruits at the time was breaking with their Catholic beliefs. For many, it took months or even years after they joined before they could fully abandon their faith and become atheists. I’m sure quite a few never made it that far.

For most of the 1930s, the national question had not been a big factor against recruitment. During this period Quebec nationalism meant almost exclusively Duplessis, the Catholic church and fascist bands. This helps to explain why, in spite of their blindness on the national question, the CPC made gains in Quebec. Certainly their position on the Quebec national question was bad throughout these years. As an example, in 1938 the party’s brief to the Rowell-Sirois Commission in Ottawa was a crawling statement of support for federalism, arguing above all for “national unification.” It took some time before such positions finally came to bite the party in the ass. But when they did, this destroyed almost everything that the CPC had in francophone Montreal.

The national question became more of an issue in Quebec society at large as World War II approached. When the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed in 1939, the CPs around the world suddenly veered from “anti-fascist” popular frontists to a posture of opposing Anglo-American imperialism. While this was entirely cynical on Moscow’s part, it did spur further success for the CPC in Quebec.

As in the first interimperialist world war, popular opposition to again going to war for Britain was huge in Quebec. This reflected both widespread hatred for yet another war on behalf of the English oppressors and support by sections of the Catholic nationalist elite for fascism and clerical nationalism, notably the pro-Hitler Vichy regime of Marshal Pétain in France (see “Imperialist War and National Oppression: Quebec and the Conscription Crises,” SC No. 119, Winter 1998/99). Gagnon reports that from May to July 1940, the Montreal YCL managed to get out over 250,000 pieces of propaganda, mostly leaflets at various demonstrations, denouncing British imperialism and opposing Canada’s participation in the war.

In line with this shift, the CPC started schmoozing with pretty unappetizing Quebec nationalists. In late 1940, the party launched something called the “Congrès des Canadiens Français” (Congress of French Canadians) on a deeply class-collaborationist platform with groups like the Young Patriots, the Société St-Jean-Baptiste, the Third Battalion of the Papal Zouaves and the Société du Bon Parler Français (Society for the Proper Speaking of French)! The first issue of the new group’s newspaper, co-edited by Gagnon, carried a giant front-page picture of Conservative Montreal mayor Camillien Houde, hailing him as a hero and martyr after his incarceration at an internment camp in Petawawa for opposing conscription.

Of course, this all came to a dramatic collapse after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. “Anti-imperialism” went out the window and it was back to supporting Britain and other imperialist powers, including Canada, in a supposed “great war against fascism.” CPC militants now turned to supporting the “total war effort” (Henri Gagnon himself enlisted and fought in Europe), arguing for a no-strike pledge in the unions. The CPC went on to support the “yes” side in the conscription referendum of 1941, but allowed a sop to its Quebec leadership, which continued to object to conscription in Quebec. So the CPC’s line became: vote “yes” in English Canada and vote “no” in Quebec!

Against the CPC’s hard swing over to Anglo chauvinism in the service of imperialist war, the Canadian Trotskyists opposed the imperialist war while calling for unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union which, despite Stalinist bureaucratic degeneration, remained a workers state. Driven underground, their paper banned, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers League nevertheless sought to intersect the powerful anti-conscription movement in Quebec.

In 1943, the CPC re-branded itself the Labor Progressive Party (LPP) around a program centred on demands for “National Unity” and “Democratic Progress.” Tim Buck started to push for a “Lib-Lab” coalition between labour and the ruling bourgeois Liberals under Mackenzie King.

The LPP continued to achieve gains in Quebec, however, as exemplified by Fred Rose’s surprise 1943 by-election victory in the mixed Jewish-francophone riding of Montreal-Cartier, at the western end of Plateau Mont-Royal. It’s notable that among his defeated opponents was a certain David Lewis for the CCF. Rose won the riding again in the 1945 general election, this time by 1,500 votes. And of course, party members were playing key roles in the unprecedented wave of strikes following the end of the war, particularly during the tumultuous year of 1946.

The Cold War: Anti-Communist Reaction

By the end of the war, Tim Buck and the party had totally embraced the promise of “universal peace” coming out of the various Allied conferences that brought the U.S., British and other imperialist leaders together with Joseph Stalin. But instead of the Stalinist delusion of peace on all fronts, what came after World War II was the fiercest wave of anti-Communist repression yet seen. As in the U.S., the Cold War would strike a body blow to the party and more broadly to the workers movement. In Canada, one of the first and most famous victims of the witchhunt was Fred Rose.

Rose was born Fred Rosenberg in Poland in 1907. His family followed tens of thousands of other Jewish immigrants to the shores of North America, in their case to Montreal, where they arrived in 1916. Rose joined the Montreal YCL and in 1925 became its national secretary. As a fluent speaker of both English and French, he was well placed to play a leading role internally and externally, which he did. He was evidently a talented speaker and a personable guy, and his election victories reflected his personal popularity in the neighbourhood.

In late 1945, a Soviet defector by the name of Igor Gouzenko accused MP Fred Rose as well as party leader Sam Carr and Quebec scientist Raymond Boyer of spying for the USSR. Boyer himself admitted that he passed on information about weapons production to the Soviet Union, then a Western ally, in the interest of coordinating the “scientific war effort.” All of them were tried and jailed. Sentenced to six years, Rose was released in 1951, but could not find work anywhere as the RCMP made sure to tell any potential employer not to hire him. According to Gagnon, who I tend to believe, that charmer Tim Buck dropped Rose and Carr from membership as soon as possible during the witchhunt. This allowed Buck to avoid having to defend them in the context of his own appeals for unity with the Mackenzie King government, which was persecuting Rose, Boyer and Carr.

Fred Rose eventually had to move back to his native country, where he went on to work for the English-language journal Poland. His Canadian citizenship was revoked and all his appeals to come back and clear his name remained fruitless. He died peacefully in Warsaw in 1983.

Tim Buck Wrecks CPC’s Quebec Work

Soon after the Fred Rose trial came the climax of this story: the spectacular collapse of the Communists in French Canada. As the struggle against Quebec’s national oppression slowly started to shift from the reactionary Catholic nationalists of the past and into the labour movement, this was bound to happen sooner or later. In the event, it was precipitated by Tim Buck’s bureaucratic megalomania.

In 1946, after returning from the war, Henri Gagnon and the local LPP led a militant and ultimately successful struggle for housing for war vets and their families, which was deplorable to non-existent in Montreal at the time. Gagnon’s Squatters’ Movement drove the Duplessis government and the city’s bourgeois masters to fits of rage. Even the New York Times covered the story of Henri Gagnon, the “Number 1 Communist” taking over this supposedly “non-communist” movement, along with a heavily cropped picture of him and “that spy” Fred Rose side by side.

The Squatters’ Movement received very little coverage in the English-language press of the LPP and was clearly irritating to the party leadership with its “Lib-Lab” coalition crap. It is apparent that Tim Buck had decided that he had a dangerous potential rival on his hands. Regardless, the sudden and vicious political assault on Henri Gagnon appeared well-prepared and thought out. As Buck wasn’t going to “get” him on his irreproachable record as a party activist and leader, he manufactured the only accusation against Henri Gagnon that could possibly stick inside the party: that he and his supposed “clique” were Quebec nationalists and anti-Semites. The accusation of cliquism was obviously false, as Gagnon had no “group” of any kind—except, if you will, the overwhelming majority of the francophone rank-and-file members, who followed and respected him as an earnest and talented leader. And he definitely wasn’t an anti-Semite.

The evidence against Gagnon was flimsy at best. He had made an intervention at a 1946 National Committee meeting where he spoke of the “relations between the two nations of Canada,” and at a later meeting in 1947 he said that Duplessis was “not a nationalist leader,” likely a clumsy formulation used to make an analytical point. Later, in September 1947, Gagnon wrote a document in response to one by Tim Buck defending the party’s policy on “constitutional reforms.” In it, he entirely agreed with Buck’s federal social reform plans, but included the following sentence: “The struggle for a unified social legislation, for the national equality of French Canada, is an integral part of the battle for the right of national determination.” (Remember that Stanley Ryerson had already publicly argued for the right of self-determination for Quebec in early 1946, and nothing happened to him.)

This last piece set off a full-fledged campaign against Gagnon. It was kicked off by Quebec provincial leader Oscar Roy, who denounced the “shades of nationalism” in Gagnon’s document and in his earlier comments (of course the CP didn’t have a problem with Canadian nationalism when it suited them). Then came the “surprise motion,” cooked up overnight just before the October 1947 LPP Provincial Congress. This motion (reportedly drafted by Stanley Ryerson) denounced the existence of a “tendency” that “constitutes a nationalist, anti-Marxist deviation,” “adopts the point of view of nationalism on the question of federal-provincial relations” and “openly expresses a scornful attitude toward internationalism, is anti-Semitic, propagates organizational and political separatism within the party.” And the clincher: it “rejects in practice the principle of internationalist unity of the party in Quebec and Canada; takes an attitude of hostility toward the leadership of the party centre; attempts to organize a faction in opposition to the party leadership.” Other issues were thrown in related to trade-union work and what-not, but this “nationalist” and “anti-Semitic” stuff was the heart of it.

The Congress was followed by the resignation or withdrawal of up to 300 French-speaking members from the party. Gagnon and another 100 or so supporters tried to fight to stay in, but bureaucratic maneuvers got the better of them. After the Congress, some nefarious forces got the Montreal Herald, a bourgeois daily widely read in the Jewish community and with many LPP supporters on staff, to print as good coin the accusations of anti-Semitism against Gagnon. He obviously had to reply sharply to the slander, which he did, and the Herald shut up about it. But this itself became an excuse for suspending him from the party for talking to the bourgeois press. Tired and disgusted, he quit a few weeks later, taking with him most of what was left of the francophones within the party. About 100 French-speaking Tim Buck loyalists stayed in. But most of them would quit anyway amid the turmoil and bureaucratic infighting that followed Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 secret speech exposing some of the crimes of Stalin, who had died in 1953.

This was pretty much the end of the line for the CPC in Quebec, despite the creation in 1965 of a semi-autonomous Parti Communiste du Québec (PCQ). By the early 1990s, as capitalist counterrevolution swept the former Soviet Union, the CPC and its Quebec wing crumbled, their worldview shattered by the terminal crisis of Stalinism.

In the aftermath, a small group in Quebec was patched together, only to split once again over the national question in 2006. Both wings call themselves the PCQ. One waves the Maple Leaf, calling to “struggle against U.S. domination and for genuine Canadian independence,” while railing vis-à-vis Quebec that “The separatist solution would bring severe additional economic hardship to the working people of both nations and would weaken their political unity against the common enemy” (Program of the Communist Party of Canada, adopted in 2001). The other, meanwhile, gives electoral support to the bourgeois-nationalist Bloc and Parti Québécois, while operating as a pressure grouplet inside the petty-bourgeois populist Québec Solidaire.

Gagnon and his group remained active after their expulsion, even briefly forming a “French Canadian Communist Party,” all the while trying to mend fences with Buck’s party. The Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers Party briefly sought to intersect them, but this didn’t go anywhere. Gagnon remained an unrepentant Stalinist, and in 1956 he and some of his supporters were allowed to rejoin the party. But they too were soon repulsed by the situation following the Khrushchev speech and quit again. After that, Gagnon remained active in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers until his retirement. In 1985, he published his memoirs, on which some of this presentation is based. He died in Montreal in 1989.

We’ll end our story here. The central lesson of the history of the Communist Party in Quebec is the absolute necessity of a correct line on the national question in this country. A would-be revolutionary party that fails to maintain a Leninist approach—the defense of the right of self-determination, i.e., to independence, for all nations while opposing any form of chauvinism and nationalism—will necessarily capitulate to its “own” capitalist ruling class. The Stalinist CPC ended up flatly endorsing the nationalism of the English Canadian oppressors. No less a dead end, other groups on the left have gone the other way, capitulating to Québécois nationalism.

We Trotskyists carry forward the Leninist program on the Quebec national question. Since 1995, we have advocated Quebec independence as the best means to undermine chauvinism and nationalism among a working class that is deeply divided. This will stand us in good stead to win the working-class militants of the future in the fight to forge a party that struggles for North American socialist revolution.


Spartacist Canada No. 175

SC 175

Winter 2012/2013



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The Communist Party of Canada and the Quebec National Question

Part Two: From the Great Depression to the Cold War


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